Friday, May 23, 2014

At A Crossing

The Battle of Jericho Mills a part of Grants Overland Campaign was fought May 23rd 1864 between the Union V Corps and a part of AP Hill’s Corps.
After the fighting at Spotsylvania Court House came to end Union General Ulysses S Grant moved to flank Confederate General Robert E Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.  He was brought up short by Lee’s “Hog Snout Line” along the North Anna River.  At that point Grant divided the Army of the Potomac into three parts.

Union General Gouverneur K Warren reached Mount Carmel Church on the morning of May 23rd 1864.  He stopped his V Corps which caused Union General Winfield S Hancock’s II Corps to come up behind and get tangled on the road.  The two commanders decided that the II Corps would move down Telegraph Road while the V Corps would cross the North Anna at Jericho Mills.

As they moved down the Telegraph Road, Union Major David B Birney’s division of the II Corps began to take fire.  He deployed two brigades and attacked.  They also called up artillery which opened fire on Confederate Colonel Edward P Alexander’s artillery.  It was during this duel that Lee was just missed by a cannonball which lodged in the door frame near him, and Alexander was hit by bricks from the chimney which was hit by Union shells.  At 6pm the Union troops charged, overwhelming the Confederate at the bridge.  With Alexander’s artillery still lying down a heavy fire, the Union troops did not cross the bridge, but entrenched on the north side of the river.

Meanwhile at Jericho Mills, the V Corps found the North Anna ford unprotected.  Warren sent Union Brigadier General Charles Griffin’s Division across the river while the rest the Corps crossed by 4:30 pm on a pontoon bridge.  Finding out from a captured Confederate that there was a force nearby on the Virginia Central Railroad, Warren deployed for battle.  Lee felt that Warren’s movement was a feint and so had AP Hill send a single division under Major General Cadmus M Wilcox, with artillery commanded by Colonel William J Pegram.  The Confederates struck Warren’s Corps hard, breaking their line and causing them to flee to the rear where they came up against the bluffs along the river.  Warren’s Corps was saved in part by Union Colonel Charles S Wainwright’s artillery which laid down a deadly fire on the Confederates.  It was also at about this time that Union Brigadier General Joseph J Bartlett led his 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry against the right flank of the Confederate line causing them to retreat and leaving that part of the line untenable.  Seeing that reinforcements from Confederate Major General Henry Heth would not reach the field in time, Wilcox had his men withdraw.

Wilcox was greatly outnumbered with about 6,000 men to the Union’s 15,000.  There were about 730 Confederate casualties, while the Union reported 377.

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